The Modern Library's 100 Best Novels Of The Century: My Two Cents

The editorial board of the Modern Library has recently compiled a list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. I probably agree with the list more than most people; I believe that the board was correct in narrowing its focus to novels published after 1900 and written in the English language. While this unfortunately excludes Mark Twain and Shakespeare, and such non-Anglo greats such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Milan Kundera, any attempt to broaden the list's scope would cause more harm than good. We have enough trouble trying to please all the groups in our society (and I do think that the list needlessly excludes far too many minority writers) without someone complaining of racial bias. If the list were extended to the entire world, just imagine the petty nationalistic squabbling that would commence! How can one compare Tolstoy to Goethe, not to mention the multitudes of Asian and African writers that we Western readers are far too unfamiliar with? Also, the list would have to be extended to 500 novels at the very least in order to fit in all the deserving works; so you see, expanding the list's scope would create problems far too difficult for mere book reviewers to handle.

I must admit that I have only read 45 of the 100 novels. I suppose by the time I'm 30 I'll have read all of them (except for Henry James, who I will only read at gunpoint, or a test). I'm only 24, after all. Still, 45 is a higher number than what most people have read of the list, and rather than wait several years to read all this junk, I'm just going to go ahead and give my opinion on the novels I have read. The books I have read are highlighted in boldface, and are peppered with wry asides. I've often wondered why I voraciously read every movie and record review I can get my hands on, and find myself uninterested in most book reviews. I love books, and have been reading them since a child. The reason I think book critics are dull is that they display little of the wit, inventiveness, irreverence, and personality that music and movie reviewers do. I for one am sick of expositions of symbolism, of puritanical probings for politically incorrect content in hapless writers decades dead, of deconstructionist post-structuralist language games, of the trivial semantics that characterizes most criticism (particularly that of the most useless and tedious of genres, academic criticism). The question most literary critics never answer is: was the book a good read? Books are supposed to be enlightening and fun, but most critics have forgotten all about the entertainment value of literature (as, alas, has a great deal of society). So, with no further ado, here are my brash and completely irreverent ramblings on the classics.

1. Ulysses: James Joyce

I got through about 200 pages of this before realizing that I hadn't understood a damn thing. I was just a junior in highschool, so maybe I just wasn't smart enough to read it yet. I plan on taking a few months to read this.... someday.

2. The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald

A genuine classic, and it certainly belongs in the Top 10. While his other books had their moments, Fitzgerald only wrote one perfect book. However, and this may upset snobs who feel that somehow the printed word is always superior to other mediums, I feel that Citizen Kane covered similar territory more successfully. The film had more depth in its exploration of the main character; by the end of the book, I still don't know Gatsby very well.

3. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: James Joyce

Having James Joyce occupy both the #1 and #3 positions strikes me as rather unfair, considering that several other writers were equally great. However, this novel certainly deserves inclusion in the Top 10. It's my personal favorite of Joyce's books. Like a lot of adolescents of a certain type, I identified enormously with Stephen Dedalus; for the first time in history, a writer wrote honestly of the genuine confusions of coming of age, making this book enormously influential - and not just to other writers like J.D. Salinger, but the entire "teen" pop industry, which means that sitcom you're watching tonight about some poor fucked up kid.

4. Lolita: Vladimir Nabokov

I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this novel. The first time I read it, I loved it; the second time, hated it; and the third time, liked (not loved) it. Nabokov was one of the world's most annoying show-offs, and his trite puns and word games clutter this otherwise fine book. The subject matter was admirably risky - so much that no one has ever dared film an accurate version (even in the new Jeremy Irons/Dominique Swain film, the nymphet is 15. In the novel she's only 12). I've read a bit more of Nabokov's work, and I think it's self-indulgent crap. He's one of those writers that divides people that way. However, in the end I did like this novel of his.

5. Brave New World: Aldous Huxley

A surprising choice for the Top 10; while it's not as popular as Orwell's 1984, it's scarier because while Orwell was writing about what happens in other countries such as China, Huxley was writing about what could very well happen in our free, liberal society. Definitely Top 100 material, but not Top 10.

6. The Sound and the Fury: William Faulkner

Okay, here's where I break out my bias: Faulkner is my favorite writer, and I am gratified that he's in the Top 10. This is one of the rare books that you have to read twice to understand it, due to the odd structure, but it's certainly worth it. A very difficult, but very rewarding work.

7. Catch-22: Joseph Heller

A hilarious piece of satire, it helped shape the reflexively cynical attitudes of generations of smart-asses. A book for the Top 100, but not the Top 10.

8. Darkness at Noon: Arthur Koestler

On my must-read list. I actually checked this out of the library a couple of summers ago, but after wading through Edmund Wilson's To the Finland Station and Anatole France's Penguin Island at the same time, my appetite for political material was slaked, so I never got around to Koestler's.

9. Sons and Lovers: D.H. Lawrence

One of those writers who I just don't find that interesting. As a stylist Lawrence is clunky, and despite the good subject matter, I found this book dull.

10. The Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck

One of those writers who's either overrated or underrated, Steinbeck wrote a lot of books, half of which are good to great, and the other half of which aren't worth reading. Some people believe that politics don't belong in literature, and bring out disingenous arguments that the politics date this novel. That's a pile of horse manure, if you ask me. True, Steinbeck can be a bit too preachy, but this is not propraganda: it contains memorable characters, Biblical overtones, a moving plot, and is written in an assured, versatile style. There's nothing wrong with a book containing a "message"; in fact, it's preferable to the drab sub-Raymond Carver/John Updike literature produced in MFA workshops today that has absolutely nothing to say.

11. Under the Volcano: Malcolm Lowery

I read part of this, but after 20 pages of tedious description of the Mexican countryside, I put it aside. Someone once described this as listening to some old drunk ramble on for several hundred pages, which actually sounds kind of interesting. Maybe someday....

12. The Way of All Flesh: Samuel Butler
13. 1984: George Orwell

Perhaps the most influential book on the list, most of the ideas in this book have found their way into our everyday lives. Unfortunately, not enough took heed and today Doublespeak is mouthed not just by maligned politicians but by average folks like you and me. Or just what do you think Political Correctness is? Whenever I hear words like "sensitivity training", a chill runs down my spine. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but doesn't it seem that the Thought Police really have taken over our lives in the '90s? If you don't believe me, then you try really speaking your mind about issues in society, and watch what happens. If you don't parrot the comfortable, standardized platitudes, then you'll be branded a fascist, sexist, racist, communist, feminazi, religious bigot, or worse.

14. I, Claudius: Robert Graves
15. To the Lighthouse: Virginia Woolf

IMHO Woolf was a poet who happened to write novels. Not much of a plot or real structure (or else I haven't studied this closely enough), but it has a real dreamy, ethereal aspect that makes for a charmingly unique read. I think The Waves was better, though.

16. An American Tragedy: Theodore Dreiser

I'm not going to tackle this weighty monster anytime soon - 800 pages or so is more Dreiser than any sane person would subject himself to. See my film page -A Place In The Sun is classic.

17. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter: Carson McCullers

I loved this when I was a teenager - that '50s Lonely Crowd angst really spoke to me - but now that I'm older this doesn't hold up as well. Belongs in the Top 90 range, not at #17. Very impressive that she wrote this at 22, though. I mean, I wrote a novel when I was 19, and it was crap! I doubt I could write a book this good at 50...

18. Slaughterhouse Five: Kurt Vonnegut

One of those writers it's dangerous to write off; just because he's beloved by the kids doesn't mean he's not worth reading when you're older. I wouldn't rate any novel by Vonnegut quite this high - he belongs somewhere between #50 and #100. I've read all his novels, and I'm not quite sure this is even his best book. Cat's Cradle, anyone?

19. Invisible Man: Ralph Ellison

Perfect placing. This is the greatest novel written about the African-American experience, largely because Ellison is smart enough to realize that blacks can't blame all their problems on white racism: self-destructive patterns of behavior (substitute Ras the Destroyer for Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton) have held blacks back as much as white oppression. Nearly a half century later, it still reads like today's headlines. Oh, and by the way, the same people who criticize Steinbeck for being political never criticize Ellison or other black writers for being political - because Ellison & Co. are black, and criticizing them for writing about politics might seem racist. It's called hypocrisy, folks; look it up.

Reader Comments

Nick Watson,

I agree with your comments on how above is still incredibly relevant today and also with the fact that ellison didn't recieve the criticism that someone like Steinbeck did for involving politics in his writing. However Ellison did and still does recieve quite a lot of criticism from black people who saw him as some how selling out/adding to the criticism that black people already faced/still face. In addition to this there is also the problem that people have preconcieved ideas about black American male novelists ie that they will all write about gritty urban realism - I know I was guilty of this when I first read Ellison's Invisible Man.

Roland Bernard,

Ellison's Invisible Man wasn't a particularly great novel. I believe that people rally around it so often because it says many of the things that one group likes to hear ... what one group wants desperately to believe in.

Hazel Carlos,

INVISIBLE MAN is not about African-Americans. It is about invisibility, which comes in many colors, shapes and genders. Ellison is drawing heavily from Dostoevsky when he writes this work. The black experience happens to be the example that he uses and not the point itself. Please try to interpret works more universally rather than racially. When you do so, you deny all of my students an equal opportunity of relating to the invisible man.

20. Native Son: Richard Wright

Wright came from the Zola Naturalist school, and subsequently his work seems a bit dated and one-dimensional, like that of all Naturalists. However, this book has an undeniable, morbidly gripping power, and it still horrifies and enrages to this day. It's essential reading, and not just for purely literary reasons: Bigger Thomas is out there on the streets today, but his numbers have multiplied, and now he carries an AK-47....

21. Henderson The Rain King: Saul Bellow
22. Appointment in Sammarra: John O'Hara
23. U.S.A. (trilogy): John Dos Passos

I read The Manhattan Transfer, and I found that Dos Passos' modernist/naturalist style has dated horribly. Photography isn't literature.

24. Winesburg, Ohio: Sherwood Anderson

Okay, this is cheating a little bit, since this really isn't a novel, but a book of interconnected short stories. Some of this might seem a little corny or melodramatic by modern standards, but this is one of the most influential books written by an American. An entire generation of writers - Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis - took their cues from this work. After Mark Twain, Anderson did more than any other writer to create a genuinely American style of prose literature.

25. A Passage to India: E.M. Forster
26. The Wings of the Dove: Henry James
27. The Ambassadors: Henry James

No way does Henry James belong on the Top 100 list. He's the most overrated writer of all time, and certainly the most boring. I only kept myself awake for this because it was assigned for a class. As Mark Twain said, "Henry James was one of the nicest little old ladies I've ever met." His prose style is all but unreadable, but unlike Joyce and Faulkner, it's not worth wading your way through, because James' plots are like an eposide of Seinfield: they're about nothing.

28. Tender Is the Night: F. Scott Fitzgerald

I wouldn't include any novel of Fitzgerald's on the list except for The Great Gatsby. This is okay, but the rest of his work pales in comparison to his masterpiece.

29. The Studs Lonigan Trilogy: James T. Farrell
30. The Good Soldier: Ford Madox Ford

I read a chapter of this thinking it would be a good'n'gory WWI novel about alienation in the trenches and all that lot. Turned out to be a damn Edwardian novel of manners, which ain't my cuppa tea (pun intended).

31. Animal Farm: George Orwell

This actually got rejected by an American publisher because they didn't believe the market was right for another children's book. A brilliant fable.

32. The Golden Bowl: Henry James
33. Sister Carrie: Theodore Dreiser

Dreiser was one of the clumsiest writers to ever hold a pen, and when he starts expounding on turn-of-the-century ideas about chemicals and glands, he's laughably dated. However, the material and the passion that Dreiser delivers it with overcomes his considerable weaknesses for the most part. Fairly good; on its own objective merits I wouldn't put this novel on the list, but factoring in its historical importance, I suppose it belongs.

34. A Handful of Dust: Evelyn Waugh
35. As I Lay Dying: William Faulkner

A very funny book, if not really among Faulkner's finest. I'd place the Snopes trilogy or even his novel about the Sartoris family here instead, but then I'm a hardcore fan who's just quibbling. I'm also a Southerner, which might help explain my bias, because around here people who read literature invariably read Faulkner, just like the Irish read Joyce (who claim that if you have a few pints and read it aloud in the pub, Ulysses actually starts to make sense).

36. All the King's Men: Robert Penn Warren

This novel needed better editing; the first 50 pages or so are dull, and the section in which the narrator discusses his field assignment in history class is a completely unneccessary digression. However, it is a great book, and it's curious that more hasn't been written employing the ripe material of the weird world of Southern politickin'.

37. The Bridge of San Luis Rey: Thornton Wilder

Wilder practically defined the term middlebrow, and that's not a compliment. Sappy and maudlin, complete with dimestore philosophy, this is the inoffensive type of stuff that puts a warm glow in your grandma's heart but the rest of us could do without.

38. Howards End: E.M. Forster
39. Go Tell It On The Mountain: James Baldwin

Baldwin was a better essayist than novelist. As an adolescent I loved him for the same reasons I don't rate his work as highly now: Baldwin was a perpetual adolescent - self-centered, idealistic, angry, unfocused, and he doesn't know when to shut up.

40. The Heart of the Matter: Graham Greene

I need to read more Graham Greene. Loved The End of the Affair, loved The Power and the Glory, and now this one's on my list of must-reads.

41. Lord of the Flies: William Golding

A brilliant fable that puts to lie the sentimental idea of the noble savage.

42. Deliverance: James Dickey

I saw the film, and it's a classic. I like Dickey's poetry, but I've never read his prose. I haven't read this, but I get the feeling that they are rating Dickey a bit too highly.

43. A Dance to the Music of Time: Anthony Powell
44. Point Counter Point: Aldous Huxley
45. The Sun Also Rises: Ernest Hemingway
46. The Secret Agent: Joseph Conrad
47. Nostromo: Joseph Conrad
48. The Rainbow: D.H. Lawrence
49. Women in Love: D.H. Lawrence
50. Tropic of Cancer: Henry Miller

If you're a guy, this is a pretty good dirty book. If you're a female - uh, then don't read this. Miller defines the term misogynist. I wouldn't put this in the Top 100; pornography dates badly, even well-written porno. I don't get his reputation as a master stylist; most of this is more typing than writing, and the book has no plot.

51. The Naked and the Dead: Norman Mailer

His only good novel. Let this be a warning to young writers tempted by the lure of celebrity.

52. Portnoy's Complaint: Philip Roth

America's greatest living writer? Both Goodbye Columbus or The Great American Novel would have fit fine on this list, too, but if you're going to pick one Roth novel, then this is the one, because it broke the Big Taboo about....well, I'll just let you find out for yourself. Some famous woman whose name I forget once said of Roth, "He's a very good writer, but I wouldn't want to shake his hand". If you know what this novel is about, you ought to be rolling on the floor from that remark by now.

53. Pale Fire: Vladimir Nabokov

Whether you like this or not depends on whether or not you can stand an extended practical joke by a slumming, goofing-off genius. Actually, that about sums all of Nabokov.

54. Light In August: William Faulkner

This ought to be higher, much higher - definitely Top 20, if not Top 10, material. Perhaps the easiest of Faulkner's works to read, its truths are perhaps a bit harder to take. No one has ever captured better the sheer insanity of America's shameful obsession with race, which may not be as prevelant as in Faulkner's time, but still exists underneath the surface.

55. On the Road: Jack Kerouac

Admit it, everyone carried a tattered paperback copy back in high school and dreamed of traveling the country like Neal Cassady at one time. This book hasn't dated well, and Kerouac was more of a rock star than a genuninely good writer, but this trip was kind of fun, to tell the truth. None of the Beats are really worth reading unless you're either a perpetual teenager or a perpetual hippie (or both), but it is something of an oversight that William Burroughs' (by far the most talented of the bunch) Naked Lunch didn't wind up on the Top 100 list.

56. The Maltese Falcon: Dashiell Hammett

I saw the movie, and it's a Bogart classic, but you already knew that. I don't know about this inclusion. I read Red Harvest and found it dull and gory, despite being impressed with its stylistic innovations (by 1926 Hammett had absorbed all of Hemingway and gone beyond him in the tough Americanization of the novel) and the mindless body count (17 or 18...I lost I know who to blame for slasher flicks). If you are going to include Hammett, then why aren't Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson, both far better writers of pulpy noir, on this list?

57. Parade's End: Ford Madox Ford
58. The Age of Innocence: Edith Wharton
59. Zuleika Dobson: Max Beerbohm
60. The Moviegoer: Walker Percy

Good placing for this underrated novelist, who's one of my favorites. Actually, I would have picked The Last Gentleman, but this one's fine. Long before Carter, Percy perfectly delineated the quandry of American malaise.

61. Death Comes to the Archbishop: Willa Cather

I'm not terribly familiar with her work, but My Antonia was a decent read, if much too Little House on the Prarie for my modern tastes.

62. From Here To Eternity: James Jones

I saw the film, which was one of Hollywood's greatest ever movies, but it didn't make me want to read the book.

63. The Wapshot Chronicles: John Cheever

A much better short story writer than a novelist.

64. The Catcher in the Rye: J.D. Salinger

A vastly overrated book. This gets handed out to every teenager as if it speaks to their very souls and Holden Caulfield were the quintessential teen, but it doesn't and he's not. In fact, when I read this, I thought he was just a whining asshole - and it wasn't just me, but lots of fellow teens hated this book. Look, teenagers aren't all the same; there are different types, just as there are different types of older people, and just because this book speaks to a certain segment of teenagers (who if they really do identify with Caulfield, should be avoided because they are self-centered spoiled brats) doesn't mean it speaks to all teenagers. Read Colin McInnes' Absolute Beginners instead - sloppier, yes, and not as good of a stylist, but it's got an energy and verve (these teenagers actually get out and do things!) that the whiny whitebread Salinger lacks.

65. A Clockwork Orange: Anthony Burgess

A chilling book, not in the least because Burgess' nightmare vision of the future with out-of-control young sociopaths roaming the streets is today's reality. It's also very inventive stylistically, as Burgess invents his own language out of a combination of slang and Russian. The only problem is that Burgess was too old and out of touch to really get the feel of modern teen culture quite right, but he did do an admirable job with his imagination.

66. Of Human Bondage: W. Somerset Maugham

One of those writers nobody reads nowadays, mainly because he has this annoying habit of interjecting his middlebrow views on politics/sex/religion etc. It's a habit that nowadays gets thoroughly drilled out of all young American writers (a bit too thoroughly, actually). However, people tend to make too much out of it, and he should be read more than he is. Haven't read this, but I did enjoy The Razor's Edge (presaging the America/England's obsession with the New Age Buddhism of the Orient) and Cakes and Ale (when he was boy he met Thomas Hardy and a loose country woman).

67. Heart of Darkness: Joseph Conrad

This falls into the rare, but very real, category of books I don't enjoy but respect as classics. I think it's a great book, an important book, and a powerful book, but a dull one to read. I enjoyed Apocalypse Now more, but I don't think that the movie is a greater piece of art.

68. Main Street: Sinclair Lewis

Sorry, but this book is very dated, and tediously one dimensional. There's no real reason to read Lewis today, even if he did have some arguable historical importance. Message: middle-class mid-Americans are narrow-minded, dull, and hypocritical - a shockingly new message at the time, but we've heard it repeated vapidly to endless tedium by now.

69. The House of Mirth: Edith Wharton

Pretty good for the genre, and I enjoyed it okay, but I don't like the genre. Upper-class woman feels unfulfilled and tries to get hitched: hasn't dated well in these post-feminist times. How come all the 19th century women's literature always revolves around upper-class women trying to get married? Don't believe the hype: this type of material is very limited and very dull. Sorry, but I prefer novels in which the characters do something besides sit around the tea table and mope.

70. The Alexandria Quartet: Lawrence Durrell
71. A High Wind In Jamaica: Richard Hughes
72. A House for Miss Biswas: V.S. Naipaul
73. The Day of the Locust: Nathaniel West

Actually, this is my least favorite of his four novels. I suppose this one is rated his best for the simple reason that it's the longest - it's an actual novel, not a novella. For a writer whose output was very slim - I read his entire ouvre in less than a week - he left a deep mark, and all of it is worth reading. Miss Lonelyhearts would have been my pick.

74. A Farewell to Arms: Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway vs. Faulkner: for lovers of American literature, it's the equivalent of the Beatles vs. the Stones. You love'em both, but your loyalties lie with one or the other. As a Faulkner fan, I find that Hemingway is anal beyond anal in his style, and not in a good way. His clipped style works better in his short stories; over the course of several hundred pages, it can get wearying. However, he was one of the greats, and his second best novel should be moved up a few notches. His best novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, isn't even on this list - a gross oversight.

75. Scoop: Evelyn Waugh
76. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: Muriel Spark

Spark's whimsically acidic satire works better in short story form than in a novel. I loved her stories, but I didn't find this very funny or all that amusing; the Mussolini bit was a nice touch, though.

77. Finnegans Wake: James Joyce

"It took me fourteen years to write it; it should take you fourteen years to read it," quoth the author. If there is an afterlife and I achieve immortality, then I will read this book, but if not - no way. Only seven people in the entire world are alive who have read this book all the way through and understood it. If you have the fortitude and a couple of decades on your hands, you can be the eighth.

78. Kim: Rudyard Kipling
79. A Room With a View: E.M. Forster

Dull aristocrats.

80. Brideshead Revisited: Evelyn Waugh

Dull drunk aristocrats.

81. The Adventures of Augie March: Saul Bellow

Not sure what to think of this. On the one hand, I'm in love with the Dickensian sprawl of this book, the way that Bellow panoramically places you into an entire world. However, none of these characters really interests me very much, and I find it hard to be concerned about anything that happens to them in the book.

82. Angle of Repose: Wallace Stegner
83. A Bend in the River: V.S. Naipaul

I have mixed feelings about this book. I generally enjoyed it, and Naipaul is an astute commentator who makes some very valid points about African politics. However, I don't find Naipaul's style very engrossing, and parts of this book are curiously lifeless. It seems that Naipaul is better at writing nonfiction.

84. The Death of the Heart: Elizabeth Bowen
85. Lord Jim: Joseph Conrad
86. Ragtime: E.L. Doctorow
87. The Old Wives' Tale: Arnold Bennett
88. The Call of the Wild: Jack London

Perfect placing. A boys' adventure classic.

89. Loving: Henry Green
90. Midnight's Children: Salman Rushdie

A great book and one that I loved through and through: panoramic, crowded, and scatological. Sometimes Rushdie's energy gets the better of his material, but generally you get swept up by the rollercoaster, and this is wildly ambitious stuff. Would you be crazy enough to tackle the entire history of India in one book? The amazing thing is, Rushdie actually pulls it off - by a nose.

91. Tobacco Road: Erskine Caldwell
92. Ironweed: William Kennedy

This selection completely baffles me. I mean, it's a pretty good book, but "pretty good" does not merit inclusion among the Top 100 novels of the 20th century.

93. The Magus: John Fowles

Haven't gotten around to this one, but I did read The French Lieutinent's Woman and thoroughly enjoyed it.

94. Wide Sargasso Sea: Jean Rhys

I once read a short novel by her, the title of which I forget. It was the literary equivalent of being trapped in a hotel room with a shrill, whiny, drunk bitch.

95. Under the Net: Iris Murdoch

Never been too impressed with her....

96. Sophie's Choice: William Styron
97. The Sheltering Sky: Paul Bowles

On my to read list. I saw the film, and was thoroughly impressed, and intrigued by the man and his work.

98. The Postman Always Rings Twice: James M. Cain
99. The Ginger Man: J.P. Donleavy
100. The Magnficent Ambersons: Booth Tarkington

It would take too long for me to think up and list all the novels that should have been included, but off the top of my head are a few egregrious exclusions. No Doris Lessing? The Golden Notebook is ten times more important to feminism than anything Edith Wharton wrote! Also, the Angry Young Men are nowhere to be found, and that movement has held up far better as literature than the concurrent Beats - no Kingsley Amis? They could have included Alan Sillitoe's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, one of the '50s best rebel novels, at the very least. I can understand not including contemporary writers - except for Ironweed, none of these novels was published after the early 1970s - since time is necessary to determine what will last and what won't. But we've had plenty of time to gauge the great '60s counterculture novels, and yet I don't see Thomas Pynchon or Ken Kesey anywhere in sight. The list seems to shy away from controversial material (Lolita excepted), which means that it relies too heavily on books that are so ancient that anything controversial contained in them no longer has any bite. Oh shouldn't take it all so seriously. After all, it's only a list, and these are only books.

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